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Wrapping up this week's primary election in Howard County

The primary election results are in, and – despite an unusually numerous field of new, untested candidates – didn't yield many election-night surprises or upsets.

But Tuesday's outcomes offered some interesting takeaways and themes to watch in the run-up to November's general election, political observers say.

District 1

Jon Weinstein, owner of consulting firm Line of Sight, held onto his frontrunner status as the first candidate to file more than a year ago, pulling off a win by a margin of about 200 votes.

But the race was close, with candidate Wendy Royalty's third-place finish just 334 votes behind Weinstein.

Support for second-place candidate Lisa Markovitz, who made zoning a central focus of her campaign, suggests the issue remains a hot topic in Howard County, and could be a factor for county executive candidates Courtney Watson and Allan Kittleman to watch as they move forward with their campaigns. Both Watson and Kittleman have said they support revisiting the county's adequate public facilities ordinance, which is intended to ensure that infrastructure keeps pace with development.

Bill Woodcock, who weighs in on politics on his Howard County-centric blog, 53 Beers on Tap, said Markovitz's success hearkens back to 20 years ago, when similar concerns over land-use became a campaign focus and yielded a slow-growth nominee in 1994, who ultimately lost.

"I think Lisa's showing shows that land use is still a big issue in Howard County... it's not going away," he said.

Woodcock and local pollster Jason Booms, who writes about Howard politics on his blog, Spartan Considerations, don't think Markovitz's success in District 1 will be much of a problem for Watson.

"I think Courtney will do well in her own district," Booms said.

On the Republican side, security-firm vice president of government relations Kevin Forrest Schmidt soundly defeated David Blake Melton, a Fort Meade defense contractor.

Schmidt's candidacy will be one to watch in Howard County's only real swing district. Loretta Shields, chair of Howard's Republican Central Committee, has said the party is hoping to pick up another seat on the council in 2014.

"If there is a district where Republicans are going to go, it will be [District] 1," Woodcock said. "They are going to look at [it] as an opportunity to break the possibility of a veto-proof council."

District 2

Reg Avery, a Columbia Association Board member from Oakland Mills, faced a somewhat surprising loss to under-the-radar candidate Ralph Colavita, by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio.

Woodcock, who lives in Oakland Mills, said Colavita's simultaneous campaign for the Republican Central Committee "suggests to me that mainstream Republicans in Howard County were not for Reg Avery."

He said he would have expected Avery to win, based on his previous campaign experience and his visibility on the CA Board, where he was recently the subject of a debate over whether political candidates could simulateously serve as board members. But, he noted, "Columbia ideological battles don't parallel partisan battles because there are hardly any Republicans" in the heavily Democratic District 2.

District 9

The Democratic Senate primary in District 9 was the county' closest race, with last-minute filer Ryan Frederic eking out a 279-vote lead (based on unofficial results) over Daniel Medinger, who had announced his candidacy last August.

Booms said he was moderately surprised by the outcome.

Though he supported Frederic, he said, "I just thought... given the head start that [Medinger] had in terms of announcing early and given the fact that it was only in the closing weeks that you got a sense of differentiation between the candidates, I thought that Medinger might still be able to pull it off."

The Democratic party is hoping to scoop up the Senate seat in the conservative west-county district. Frederic will next face District 9A Del. Gail Bates and would have to overcome the strength of both her incumbency and the district's heavy Republican registration to win.

No surprises in the District 9A Republican primary, both Woodcock and Booms said: incumbent Del. Warren Miller achieved a comfortable primary victory, with 29 percent of the vote. Trent Kittleman, former Maryland Transportation Authority head and stepmother to District 9 state Sen. Allan Kittleman, scored the second nomination for the two-member district, with 22.4 percent.

In District 9B, where both Democrats and Republicans had a primary race, attorney Tom Coale scored a strong victory over opponent Rich Corkran, who had made questioning Coale's Democratic credentials a cornerstone of his campaign. Coale took 62 percent of the vote to Corkran's 37 percent.

Booms said Coale's win was part of a theme he noticed in the primary where "the candidates who ran a slash-and-burn campaign did not do so well."

On the Republican side, former Maryland transportation secretary and delegate Bob Flanagan beat opponent Carol Loveless with 56 percent of the vote. Observers said Flanagan's name recognition likely helped him in a race where Loveless had a significant fundraising advantage.

Asked about the victory Tuesday night, Flanagan said he was successful because of the time he spent knocking on doors and reaching out to voters.

District 12

The Wild West of House races, District 12 offered Democratic voters the challenge of narrowing down a field of 10 new candidates to just three.

Columbia physicians Clarence Lam and Terri Hill affirmed their status as the presumed frontrunners by garnering 21 and 20 percent of the vote, respectively.

The final candidate to advance, Catonsville teacher Eric Ebersole, who had been endorsed by teachers' unions in both Howard and Baltimore counties, pulled away from the next closest candidate, Rebecca Dongarra, with a lead of 663 votes in what some had predicted would be a close race for third.

Booms said Ebersole's victory pointed to the strength of the teachers' unions.

"The teachers have clout," he said. "I think if Dongarra had gotten the teachers' endorsement, she would have finished third."

Despite what he considered lackluster campaign literature from Ebersole, Booms added, "I think his years in the classroom probably help his presentation style."

If all three Democratic candidates are successful in the general election, the balance of the district's representation will shift to two Howard delegates and one from Baltimore County, where before there had been two Baltimore County delegates. The ratio would be in line with the electorate post-redistricting, which is now about 60 percent Howard County voters.

All three Republican candidates live in Baltimore County.

Another twist to the District 12 results had to do with money: the two candidates with the most impressive campaign coffers, Nick Stewart and Mike Gisriel, did not make the final cut.

While Stewart placed fifth in the field, with 10 percent of the vote, Gisriel – who had proclaimed himself the frontrunner in campaign literature and had spent part of the $80,000 he loaned his campaign on sign-spinners and a large billboard in downtown Catonsville – finished eighth with just 4.2 percent of the vote.

Booms said Gisriel's campaign suffered from being too "self-referential.

"You're talking about yourself, you're not talking about the things that voters care about," he said.

District 13

The biggest surprise in Howard's primaries, in Booms' opinion, came in District 13, where newcomer Vanessa Atterbeary, a Fulton lawyer, held the lead in votes in the Democratic primary for the three-member district.

Atterbeary had been chosen by incumbent Dels. Shane Pendergrass and Frank Turner to join their "Team 13" slate.

"When you run as a team, like in District 13, it's unusual for the person who's least established, for the newcomer, to end up getting the most votes," Booms said.

Accounting for the first round of absentee and provisional votes June 27, Atterbeary had 23 more votes than Pendergrass and 446 more than Turner, who she's said has been a mentor for her political career.

She led fourth-place candidate Nayab Siddiqui, who had poured $50,000 of his own money into the campaign, by 3,171 votes.

Booms said he thought Atterbeary was boosted by her TV spots. And, he added, "I really do think there was more of a concerted effort in this case to really promote Atterbeary" on the part of "Team 13," who likely assumed the incumbents were safe.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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